1941 For the first time in 5 decades a massed-start road race was organised, from Llangollen to Wolverhampton, in defiance of the NCU. The breakaway British League of Racing Cyclists was formed in 1942. Gradually, Britain’s isolation from the continental racing world began to heal.
1945-6 Britain had ‘won’ WW2. There had been tremendous technological advances in this effort, at the expense of the living standards of the nation. Four and a half million servicemen were de-mobilised. Their euphoria was quickly dispelled as they returned to shattered cities, a bankrupt economy, food and petrol rationing. The demand for bikes soared – it was for most the only affordable means of transport until car ownership gathered pace at the end of the decade.
1946 TV broadcasts resumed, then were briefly suspended during the 1947 fuel crisis.
Frank re-opened in Kingston-on-Thames where he spent the rest of his working life. This was quite close to his wife’s original parish in Chessington, an indication that the family moved there after the blitz. The Carpenter shop became the centre of sporting cyclists in the area and was well known for its friendly atmosphere. Mrs Carpenter ran the shop’s administration side and kept detailed records in her precise handwriting. She also ran a “book” for the younger riders which enabled them to buy equipment by spreading repayments over a period of time. Known by club members as “Mrs C”, she was liked and admired by all who dealt with the shop.
Frank was regarded with some awe and respected for his fanatical attention to detail. He often offered advice and guidance to young riders and rode competitively in his younger days. However, he could be a little feisty if materials delivered to him or any sub-contracted work was not up to his high standards.
Reynolds, faced with the end of aircraft production, returned to the cycle market. 531 tubesets were again in supply. Through their subsidiary High Duty Alloys they now offered forged RR56 components – marketed as ‘Hiduminium’. These handlebars, stems & seatpins now gained the trust of racing men. “If it was good enough for the Spitfire…”
Gerry Burgess launched GB Ltd., offering Hiduminium brakes (Calliper arms forged by Reynolds) as well as bars. Stems were 531 steel at first, soon superseded by Hiduminium.
1947-56 The economy may have been depressed, but advanced technologies delivered Britain world speed records on land, on water and in the air. Unfortunately the development of British cycle components had stagnated.
By 1950 there were still only 2 million cars on the road – now there are 32m.
1948 Gino Bartali rode into Paris as the second-time winner of the Tour de France, for the first time confronted by TV cameras.
London stepped in at short notice to host the Olympic Games after Rome pulled out. No new venues were built for these “austerity” games, road cycling took place in Windsor Great Park, track at Herne Hill. British athletes, living on restricted rations, envied the diets of their USA competitors, and in general disappointed. These were the first games to be televised, though only in the London area.
1951 The Festival of Britain was organised to showcase Britain’s products to the world. Frank Carpenter helped found the Festival Road Club and was President of the Club for many years – the shop became its unofficial second clubroom.
1951 Campagnolo launched their Gran Sport derailleur with parallelogram action.
1952 National TV coverage was achieved in Britain. Enough TV sets had been sold for 20m to watch the Coronation, most by crowding around neighbours’ sets. For the first time a stage of the Tour de France was broadcast in France on live TV – they saw Faust Coppi’s ascent of the Alpe d’Huez in a remarkable (and Tour-winning) 45:22. From this point on sports would be enjoyed inexpensively from the comfort of home rather than by paying at the stadium gate. Attendance at velodromes fell steadily but sports that could command a big TV audience had huge riches in store.
1953 Coppi won the world road-race championship in Lugano using Campagnolo Gran Sport gears. His time was identical to the 2013 race over the same terrain and distance (but now the peleton rides over much better surfaces, on more technically advanced bikes and practices more concerted team-work )
Keith Mitchell’s recollections of this period are here.
1954 22-Feb. Henry Carpenter, living in Hook, died in Epsom hospital.
1955-6 Carpenter bikes were used by Mike Gambrill, Clarence Wh., to set new tandem records at 30 and 50 miles (with Alan Killick), to win the National 25-mile title, the 4000m track Pursuit title and bronze medal in the Melbourne Olympics (with Tom Simpson, Don Burgess and Alan Geddes). Fuller details are here. The British time-trial scene still used single speed fixed wheel transmission on relatively flat courses.
1959 Beryl Burton won the first of 25 consecutive Best All Rounder championships, averaging 23.72 mph (on fixed gear) over 25, 50 and 100 miles.
late 1950s through 1960s. With car ownership growing fast, the demand for cycles dropped away – and with it the membership of cycling clubs. These were lean times for the artisan builders.
10m homes had TV by 1959, the first Telstar satellite transmissions were made in 1962.
1963. 100 of 130 Tour de France riders were equipped with Campagnolo gears. British component suppliers such as Cyclo-Benelux and Williams had responded too late and had been eclipsed.
1965 Frank Carpenter displayed #4921 (a 1955 bike) for sale second hand. It was sold on condition it was first fitted with a Campagnolo chainset, gears and hubs. Tellingly, Frank did not stock these, but bought them from Pearsons. For the first time there are indications he was falling ‘behind the curve’.
1966 32m viewers watched England win the World Cup. One year later the BBC introduced the world’s first colour TV service.
Late 1960s Ill health forced Frank to stop frame building. This work was contracted out to Swindon Cycles. Frank Carpenter sold the business and retired at about this time. He saw out his last days in Worthing, eventually passing away in May 1990 at the age of 87. Frank might have watched on colour TV as Greg LeMond time-trialled to a his 1989 Tour win, ushering in a new era of attention to aerodynamics. The world had moved on.